Traffic backs up as a bighorn ram shepherds his flock of mountain sheep across the highway 10 miles north of this jewel-like lake in the Canadian Rockies.

Just a little farther up the road, a grizzly bear family creates another small traffic jam when drivers suddenly stop to snap pictures.Elk and moose also graze by the roadside. So do black bears.

The fearless wildlife is only a sidelight along the 143-mile Alberta Highway 93, the scenic road between Lake Louise and Jasper.

Craggy mountains, wild rivers loaded with trout and salmon, scores of emerald-green lakes and some of the largest glaciers left in North America are the main attractions that make the Icefields Parkway one of the world's most scenic drives.

Before the road was built in 1940, travelers could get from Jasper to Lake Louise only by pack train, a trip that took 25 days. Even then, the spectacular route was called the Wonder Trail.

The parkway is still a trail full of wonders, many attractions marked by clear signs, a big improvement over just a few years ago.

Today, signs point out dozens of view points, hiking trails, stables, campgrounds, picnic areas and small boat launching ramps. They open scores of options for visitors who want to fish, hike, ski or just drink in the scenery and learn a little about the forces that shaped it.

Drivers who head south from Jasper first come upon the Valley of the Five Lakes. A 12-mile trail leads past the five small lakes in the shadow of 11,333-foot Mt. Edith Cavell. Each has a different hue, created by varying rocks and plant life. Be ready to see deer, bears or mountain sheep when walking all or part of this heavily wooded stretch.

Another few miles and visitors reach Athabasca Falls, where paved walkways bring visitors to within a few feet of a thundering waterfall that has carved a deep gorge through dark granite rocks.

After about 45 miles, the Columbia Icefield looms as a blanket over several sharp peaks. And soon you'll arrive at the Athabasca Glacier, source of the Athabasca River whose icy water eventually flows into Hudson's Bay.

One of five frozen tongues jutting from the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca Glacier gives the visitor a chance to walk atop 150 feet of solid ice.

The hardy can hike onto the ice from a parking lot near the edge of the glacier's "toe," where melting ice has created a small and murky lake.

But most visitors take a snowmobile tour (price $15 Canadian, about $13.50 U.S., $5 canadian for children 6-15, children under 6 free), riding unique "snocoaches" which prowl the glacier atop huge tires at a top speed of 20 mph.

The icefield tour gives visitors who remember to bring a cup, canteen or thermos a rare chance to taste some of the world's purest water.

During the summer, more than 30,000 small streams laced the glacial surface here, all safe to drink because nothing can live (or pollute) for long on the icefields above.

Farther on is Waterfowl Lake, summer home to thousands of ducks and geese. Then comes Bow Summit, which offers wide vistas over dozens of snowcaps with green forests and ice-blue waters of Peyto Lake below.

Because the Icefields Parkway is wide and smooth, it can easily be driven in 2 1/2 hours. Traveling it by bicycle, as thousands do each summer, can take six days.

But most drivers will take between half a day and a full day, overnighting in nearby Banff, Jasper or Lake Louise.

Banff has a wide range of hotels from the landmark Banff Springs Hotel and the luxurious four-star Charlton Hotels (priced from $85-$250 Canadian, about $77-$225 U.S., during the June-September and Christmas high seasons) to youth hostels and motels charging about $40 Canadian per night for two persons.

At Lake Louise, there's the massive 525-room Chateau, a European-style grand hotel with a brand-new shopping arcade and world-famous poppy gardens facing on the lake and the Victoria Glacier above.

Prices at the Chateau run from $110 for a high-season single to $525 for a top-of-the-line two-bedroom suite.